Dried Cherry Shortbread Cookies with White Chocolate Drizzle

When it comes to baking and desserts, I seem to have lots of favourites.  So today I want to share another one – shortbread cookies!

Now to make these shortbreads even more over the top I added chopped dried cherries and a white chocolate drizzle.  If I were Rachel Ray, I would totally be saying, “Yum-o!” because these shortbread cookies literally melt in your mouth. I absolutely love how these turned out!

If you are feeling like substituting in ingredients you can add other chopped dried fruit or nuts if you aren’t allergic.  If you don’t have white chocolate at home or you don’t like it, you can make an icing sugar and milk drizzle instead.  For that I suggest 1 cup of sifted icing sugar and about 2-3 teaspoons of milk.  Stir it slowly and if you need more moisture add another teaspoon of milk.

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup, plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup coarsely chopped dried tart cherries

Instructions:

In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and salt until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes, then beat in the egg. Add the flour and beat on the lowest speed until just blended. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the dried cherries.

Transfer the dough to a sheet of plastic wrap and shape it into a log, about 12-inches long and 1 1/2-inches in diameter. Wrap the dough in the plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. (Dough can be made up to 3 days in advance).

Arrange an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cut the log crosswise into 1/2-inch thick slices. Transfer the dough slices to the prepared baking sheets, spacing them about 1-inch apart. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges and puffed, about 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before icing, about 30 minutes.

For the white chocolate drizzle melt white chocolate chips until smooth.  I melted the white chocolate using a double boiler so that the chocolate melts slowly.  I then piped the white chocolate onto the top of the cookies as neatly as possible.

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Flowers from the Garden

Since I am going up to the cottage for a week I thought I would post a few pictures from the garden.  Hopefully the weather holds up this week for some swimming and relaxation.  With the lack of rain the black eyed susans did not come up as strong this summer, but there were still a few that attempted to show their flower.  The pink hydrangeas are also out in bloom right now and are absolutely gorgous.

Enjoy!

Apple Spice Bundt Cake – Craving Fall Flavours

Today, I found myself craving fall flavours, which to me means apples.  There is nothing better than the smell of cinnamon baking in an apple spice cake.  This recipe is comfort food that has a delightful combination of ginger, cinnamon and applesauce.  For the icing I have chosen to sprinkle icing sugar and make a simple icing sugar and milk drizzle.  It would also be a perfect flavour combination to go with a cup of coffee in the early morning on the dock at the cottage.

Here at home, everyone has been working hard during the summer months.  Next week Mom, Dad, Sarah and I will be going up north to the cottage for a week.  My Dad has moved his office to downtown Toronto from North York.  He enjoys the downtown office, but he is looking forward to the greenery of the cottage and doing some fishing.  Everyone is looking forward to some cottage recipes, which include: easy barbeque recipes, fresh salads and maybe even some ice cream.

Ingredients

2 ½ cups all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

1 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 cup granulated sugar

4 large eggs

1 cup vanilla yogurt

1 ½ cups apple sauce

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground ginger

Nonstick cooking spray

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, whisk 2 1/2 cups flour with baking powder, salt, ground ginger and ground cinnamon; set aside.
  2. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugars on high speed until light and fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating until incorporated.  Reduce speed to low; add flour mixture in three additions, alternating with one addition of yogurt and one addition of applesauce.
  3. Coat a 12-cup nonstick Bundt pan with cooking spray or grease the pan lightly with margarine. Spread batter in prepared pan.
  4. Bake cake on bottom rack of oven until a toothpick inserted into center of cake comes out clean, 60 to 70 minutes.
  5. Cool in pan 20 minutes. Invert onto a rack; cool completely, topside up.  Tap the top of the bundt cake pan with a wooden spoon to make sure the bundt cake comes out evenly and does not break apart.

Icing Sugar Drizzle

1 cup icing sugar sifted, 3 teaspoons of milk stirred together and drizzled lightly on top of cake.

Asparagus, Artichoke and Shiitake Mushroom Risotto

For some reason, I haven’t felt like cooking recently. In an attempt to get my groove back, I made ‘the absolute tastiest’ dish I could imagine – and I think it was a success! I love blogging about food – it has given me balance, confidence and courage in a time where I am feeling uncertain about the future.  Applying to jobs as a recent graduate is a daunting task. Sending out many resumes without a response can be frustrating.

Speaking of frustrating things, this dish may frustrate some.  Risotto needs to be carefully monitored because the rice must slowly absorb the chicken broth.  The end result is worth it – the creamy texture of the rice, the crisp asparagus and the soft melted Parmesan-Reggiano is unbeatable.  The fresh shiitake mushrooms and the artichoke hearts give it texture and variety.  For entertaining or a date night a risotto is a perfect choice with its rich and luxurious flavour .

In the fall, I will be doing some volunteering in an elementary school classroom and taking some additional qualification courses in hopes of further developing my skills.  I truly enjoy helping children learn and I am very excited for the opportunity to be in a classroom again.  The feeling of September is like no other because it is a month of endless possibilities, each year you learn and develop more skills and are able to pursue more ideas.  I love seeing the inquiring young minds that are eager to learn.

Follow these directions very carefully and you will have ‘the absolute tastiest’ dish ever! (I found this recipe on the blog Smitten Kitchen.)

Ingredients:

Makes 4 main-course servings.

5 cups chicken broth (40 fl ounces)
1 cup water
1 pound thin to medium asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, leaving tips 1 1/2 inches long
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 stick (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
3/4 pound fresh shiitake mushrooms, stems discarded and caps cut into 1/4 inch thick slices
2 large fresh artichoke hearts, cut into 1/4 inch thick slices, prepared*
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 ounces finely grated Parmigiano-Reggiano (1 cup, though I used half)

Instructions:

Bring broth and water to a boil in a 4-quart pot. Add asparagus and cook, uncovered, until crisp-tender, 3 to 4 minutes. Transfer asparagus with a slotted spoon to a large bowl of ice and cold water to stop cooking, then drain and pat dry. Keep broth at a bare simmer, covered.

Heat oil with 1 tablespoon butter in a 4-quart heavy saucepan over moderately high heat until foam subsides, then saute mushrooms, stirring occasionally, until browned, about 4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, then transfer to a bowl.

Cook onion in 2 tablespoons butter in saucepan over moderate heat, stirring, until softened, about 3 minutes. Add rice and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add wine and cook, stirring, until absorbed, about 1 minute.

Ladle in 1 cup simmering broth and cook at a strong simmer, stirring, until absorbed, about 2 minutes. Continue simmering and adding broth, about 1/2 cup at a time, stirring frequently and letting each addition be absorbed before adding next, until rice is just tender and looks creamy, 18 to 20 minutes. (Save leftover broth for thinning.)

Remove from heat and stir in 1/2 cup cheese, remaining tablespoon butter, and salt and pepper to taste. Gently stir in asparagus, artichokes and mushrooms, then cover pan and let stand 1 minute. If desired, thin risotto with some of remaining broth. Serve immediately with remaining cheese on the side.

* An excellent way to prepare the artichoke hearts is to remove all the outer leaves, choke and stem of a whole artichoke, leaving just the heart. (I used canned artichoke hearts, thus avoiding removing outer leaves.)

Cut the heart into 1/4 inch slices and toss it immediately in a bowl filled with the juice of one lemon. Make sure each and every edge, angle and side of the hearts gets coated in lemon juice, or they will brown very quickly.

In a small pot, boil water with a good glug or two of white wine, a splash of white vinegar and possibly a touch of a smashed garlic clove or a bay leaf.

Drop in the artichoke hearts with all of their lemon juice, and simmer them for about 10 minutes, or longer if needed for them to become tender. Drain and set them aside.

Bestellen, Kinton Ramen & Brunch at The County General

Last week Jonathan and I tried out a few new restaurants in Toronto.  For dinner we went to Bestellen, Chef Rob Rossi’s latest creation. It had a great atmosphere and friendly wait staff.  I ordered the strozzapreti with hen of the woods mushrooms, heirloom tomatoes, leeks, and basil.  The flavours were wonderful, perfectly combined and beautifully presented.  I don’t have a picture of my meal because the lighting in the restaurant was a little dark.  Jonathan ordered the butcher’s daily meal, which was an 8oz steak topped with chimichurri and served with beets and greens. I tried a few bites and it was perfectly cooked.  It is their selection of meats that the Bestellen is known for and it was delicious.  (The photo below is from the Bestellen website, and I just had to share it, since we had such a lovely meal there.)

For brunch the next morning, we went to the County General on Queen Street. It’s owned by the same people who run Splendido, where we’re having our wedding reception next June!  Jonathan ordered a chicken thigh sandwich which was very tasty.  I ordered the pig on a blanket and I don’t know why I ordered it.  It was a pigs cheek on a bed of zucchini and I did not like the texture.  The waiter at the restaurant said it was one of his favourites.  However, luckily for me, Jonathan switched his meal with mine.  (I found a picture on The County General website of the chicken thigh sandwich.  Also on the website is a picture of their unique interior.)

Now for the dessert I did take my own picture.  It was a delicious buttermilk cake with Ontario blueberry compote.One last restaurant should be included in our restaurant exploration from last week  is Kinton Ramen.  All of the ramen noodles are made on site.  Our seat was near the kitchen, so we could see it all being freshly prepared, and the large pots of pork broth bubbling.  The portions were far to large for me to finish, but Jonathan and his friend Ian were able to eat every last bite.  I ordered the miso ramen and Jonathan and Ian ordered the spicy garlic ramen.  I definitely want to go to Kinton Ramen again sometime soon.  I love noodles so really its a dream come true for me.  We went on a very humid day, so it may not have been the best day to go for a hot bowl of soup with ramen noodles.  There was a huge wait for this trendy new restaurant, about 30 minutes, so we knew it must be good, if people were waiting 30 minutes for a bowl of ramen.

Cottage Week

I have been up at the cottage this past week.  So, I will get a new recipe out soon.  For now I will post some pictures of the wildlife, flowers and the lake.  Last week and continuing this week have been extremely humid, so I was lucky to be by the lake.

Jonathan managed to come up and sit by the lake last weekend.  On Monday he was back at CBC doing the traffic report on 99.1 fm Toronto.  I am very proud of him!

Apple Pie

Jonathan was hiking the Bruce Trail this weekend near Orangeville for a friend’s bachelor party. Left to my own devices, I decided to bake an apple pie!  As per usual, I consulted my Martha Stewart cookbook and found a wonderful recipe.  The crust was perfectly flaky and buttery.  With the Granny Smith apples I picked up at the grocery store, I went to work.  Pies require  a lot of commitment because you have to refrigerate or freeze the dough many times to keep it cool.  It is the temperature control that helps keep the crust light, buttery, and flakey.  You also have to wait for it to bake for about an hour and 15 minutes.  After that it must cool completely for approximately 2-3 hours for it to set properly.  However, this pie is worth it!

To help me eat the pie, my friend Lauren came over for a cup of tea.  It was great to catch up and talk about wedding planning.  Lauren is going to be one of my bridesmaids.  She also has a wonderful eye for architecture and design, so I was showing her some pictures of the wedding venue for next summer.  I really hope to keep the set up simple, play around with lighting, simple elegance, the architecture of the restaurant and the urban Toronto landscape.  Jonathan and I are hoping to get some pictures of us with a streetcar in the background, in front of his old subway station (Spadina) and maybe even outside of the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) building where he worked the first summer that we started going out for dinners together.

After Lauren and I had been chatting for some time, it was 10:00pm and Jonathan arrived in Aurora looking like he had been hit by a hurricane.  He regaled us with tales of the hike, complete with mosquitoes the size of cats and humid temperatures.  He was going to drive back to Peterborough that same evening, but I insisted that he stay overnight and drive in the morning.  As I said goodnight to a very sleepy and slightly delirious Jonathan, he proposed to me (for a second time, and I said yes for a second time), which he must have done because he felt lucky to have survived the hiking expedition.  In the morning I told him about his second proposal with some tea and a big piece of apple pie.

He said it was the best apple pie he’s ever had.

Cream Cheese Pie Crust Dough

Ingredients (double recipe and divide into two disks for top and bottom crust)

  • 2 teaspoons cold water
  • 1 teaspoon cold cider vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for surface
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 4 ounces (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 4 ounces cold cream cheese, cut into small pieces

Directions

  1. Combine water and vinegar in a small bowl. Combine flour and salt in another bowl. Using a pastry cutter or your fingers, cut butter and cream cheese into flour mixture until mixture resembles coarse crumbs with some larger pieces remaining.
  2. Add water mixture to dough in a slow, steady stream, stirring, until mixture just begins to hold together. (Alternatively, pulse ingredients in a food processor.) Turn out onto a piece of plastic wrap, and wrap. Press dough into a disk using a rolling pin. Refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour or overnight. (Dough can be frozen for up to 1 month; thaw before using.)
  3. Roll dough into a 12-inch round on a lightly floured surface. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie dish. Trim edge, leaving a 1-inch overhang. Turn overhang under so that edge is flush with rim. Flute edge. Freeze until firm, about 15 minutes.

Apple Pie Filling

Ingredients

  • 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour, plus more for work surface
  • 2x Cream Cheese Pie Crust Dough
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon heavy cream
  • 3-4 pounds, Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices
  • 2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

  1. On a lightly floured work surface, roll out one cream cheese dough disk into a 13-inch round about 1/8 inch thick. Fit dough into a 9-inch pie plate. With a sharp paring knife, trim dough flush with the rim. Freeze again until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  2. Roll out remaining 2 discs of pate brisee to about 1/8 inch thick. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, and freeze until firm, at least 30 minutes. Remove from freezer; using a 2 1/4-inch leaf-shaped cutter, cut out about 65 leaves and place them in a single layer on baking sheet. Place in refrigerator until firm.
  3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small bowl, whisk together egg yolk and heavy cream; set aside. In a large bowl, toss the apples with the lemon juice, granulated sugar, flour, cinnamon, and salt. Remove pie shell from freezer, and fill with apple mixture. Dot with butter.
  4. Remove leaves from refrigerator, and score with a paring knife to make veins. Lightly brush the edge of the pie shell with water. Brush the bottom of each leaf with water; beginning with the outside edge, arrange leaves in a slightly overlapping ring. Repeat to form another ring slightly overlapping the first. Continue until only a small circle of filling is left uncovered in the center.
  5. Carefully brush the top of the leaves and pie edge with the reserved egg wash, and sprinkle generously with sanding sugar. Freeze or refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.
  6. Place pie plate on a baking sheet, and bake until crust just begins to brown, about 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 350 degrees and continue baking until crust is golden brown and juices are bubbling, 35 to 45 minutes. If the crust begins to get too dark, drape a piece of aluminum foil over the top. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Decadent White Chocolate Chip Cookies

This week I visited Jonathan in Waterloo.  He was doing research for his M.A thesis and I did some baking! When these cookies came out of the oven Jonathan said they were like a white chocolate version of the President’s Choice “The Decadent” Chocolate Chip Cookies (which is a good thing).  Cookies are wonderful brain food for writers.  Many famous and brilliant thinkers would not have accomplished their great works had it not been for nourishing food and delicious cookies, I’m sure!

The texture of these cookies is similar to shortbread with a rich buttery flavour.   The brown sugar added depth and richness and the white chocolate chips gave a sense of fun.  My younger Sarah sister claims that white chocolate is a waste of time and not real chocolate, however, I think even she would enjoy these cookies.

In other news, Jonathan and I went to a restaurant yesterday for a date night in Kitchener and were very disappointed.  It was a new Italian restaurant that boasted in-house made pasta.  Unfortunately, just because it’s made in house, doesn’t mean it’s going to be good – the pasta was chewy and dry.  I will not even post a picture of the dinner or name the restaurant.  What I will tell you is that the Oliver and Bonacini Cafe Grill in Waterloo continues to be my favourite restaurant for pasta and pizza.  Below see a photo of my favourite dish from Oliver and Bonacini.  It is a scrumptious smoked salmon penne alla vodka.  This dish is seriously heavenly and I hope to recreate it in my kitchen sometime soon!

Ingredients

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/2 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 cups white chocolate chips

Instructions

1. Preheat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Grease cookie sheets or line with parchment paper.

2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt; set aside. In a medium bowl, cream together the melted butter, brown sugar and white sugar until well blended.

3. Beat in the vanilla until light and creamy. Mix in the sifted ingredients until just blended.

4. Stir in the chocolate chips by hand using a wooden spoon. Drop cookie dough 1/4 cup at a time (for giant cookies) or a tablespoon at a time (for smaller cookies) onto the prepared cookie sheets. Cookies should be about 3 inches apart.

5. Bake larger cookies for 15 to 17 minutes, or 10 to 12 minutes for smaller ones (check your cookies before they’re done; depending on your scoop size, your baking time will vary) in the preheated oven, or until the edges are lightly toasted. Cool on baking sheets for a few minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely.

Turkey Burgers with Olive and Feta

For the Canada Day weekend we went to the family cottage up north.  The weather was perfect with bright blue skies and temperatures of about 30 degrees Celsius.  I went swimming in the cool and refreshing lake everyday.  There really is no feeling like gliding through the cool water on a humid day –  just you, the water and the sky above.  My Dad likes to swim across the lake, which is about one mile (1.6km) in length.  My Mom accompanies him in a kayak, towing an extra one behind her (for Dad on the way back).

For dinner yesterday, my Mom made her famous turkey burgers with kalamata olives and feta cheese.  With a ciabatta bun, fresh tomato and tzatziki sauce, it is a flavour combination that can’t be beat.  Barbequing at the cottage is great because it doesn’t heat up the inside on a humid day.  Dad loves barbequing and decided to show off his skills for a picture.

Our little dog Beau absolutely adores the cottage, roaming the property like he is the king of the castle.  He loves stopping to smell the flowers and blending in with the limestone rocks.  All the cottage activity keeps Beau happily running around all day.  In particular he loves playing with my cousin Steven’s dog, Sasha, a large Siberian Husky.  Despite their difference in size they play well together – most of the time.

For those who love gardening in difficult terrain, the begonias my Grandma plants every year are the heartiest plants I have ever seen!  In addition to their survival skills, they come in many vibrant cheery colours.  I am going to be up at the cottage for a week with my Grandma, so I am sure I will be helping with some more gardening and watering.

Mom’s Turkey Burgers with Kalamata Olives and Feta

Ingredients

1 pound ground turkey

¼ cup crumbled feta cheese

¼ cup kalamata olives

2 tablespoons diced onion

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary

1 teaspoon salt

Instructions

Mix all ingredients together.  Form hamburger patties and put on the barbeque until cooked thoroughly.  For the toppings, slice  fresh tomatoes, fresh lettuce and add tzatziki sauce.  When it comes to buns, ciabatta buns work wonderfully. When I was in France with my two best friends we had lovely hamburgers served on a French baguette, so those work quite nicely as well.